Skip to comments.Are we willing to pay the financial cost of Faith….or not? What's answer say about what we value?
Posted on 09/16/2013 11:56:33 AM PDT by NYer
There is an interesting, albeit at times concerning, article over at Marketwatch.com that reports the simple fact that being a member of a believing community “costs” you something. And while the article is directed to a Jewish context, its implications reach all of us who believe and belong to the Church.
Underlying the article and those it interviews is a not so subtle premise that it is somehow wrong for faith to “cost” much. Never mind that just about anything in life costs something, involves tradeoffs and that the things we value are often where we chose to spend more. Somehow the implication of the article is that faith should be free, or less demanding financially.
Here are few excerpts from the article by Charles Passay with commentary from me in red and more substantial comments. The full article is here: The Financial Cost of Religious Faith
With the onset of Yom Kippur this evening, Jews will begin a day of fasting, prayer and reflection all key parts of this holiest of holy days on the religions calendar. But this Day of Atonement often comes with another ritual of sorts namely, a pitch from synagogue leaders for contributions….[It] may strike some as distasteful, but it underscores the reality that faith of any kind Judaism, Christianity, Islam often has a literal price. Houses of worship solicit donations in order to pay the bills…..
True enough, there are real costs to maintaining buildings and staffs related to houses of worship. But why should it be any more “distasteful” that a house of worship has costs and bills than say, a public school, a local recreation facility or city stadium, such that we are taxed to pay for their upkeep? The simple fact is that things we value have costs that need to be covered, churches are no different except that we are not forced to pay for them like the government does with taxes.
Beyond such fees, various religious practices, from adhering to certain dietary laws to avoiding certain types of investments, also have costs associated with them….The Jewish practice of keeping kosher that is, adhering to a way of eating in which meats have been butchered and prepared a certain way, among other dietary matters can translate into a 20% increase in a familys food costs, according to one study….Some of the faithful say the financial burden has become harder to bear, especially in light of the slumping economy of late.
But again, it also costs money to go to a football game (often a LOT of money). And that money could be spent elsewhere too. But for people who value football, it is (apparently) a price they are willing to pay, along the the “privileges” of standing in long lines, sitting out in the cold rain on some game days, and paying 15 dollars for a tiny beer and hotdog. But people line up for it.
It’s about what people value. If I value my faith I accept that there are going to be some costs and inconveniences associated with it. If I want to keep my beautiful church open and in good repair, I accept that I will be asked to contribute to that, and will not have that money to spend on a movie or something else. If I want to be a true Christian, I am going to be generous to the poor and needy, and that means I can’t spend my money of some other things.
But If I love God, I value what he values and I want to do it. It’s called tradeoffs, and most people make them everyday for things they value. For Jewish people Kosher is important, and like anything important, it has some costs and tradeoffs associated with it. Welcome to life, filled with tradeoffs and with the need to decide what you value most. You can’t have it all, and almost none of it is free.
I wish it wasnt so expensive, says Judy Safern, a Jewish resident of Dallas who runs a strategic consulting firm. In the past couple of years, Safern has cut back on what might be dubbed her religion budget, pulling her two children out of a Jewish day school in favor of a public one (a savings of $16,000) and foregoing membership to her local synagogue (a savings of $1,800). Saferns hope is that she can maintain her faith without emptying her pocketbook. I refuse to continue to be squeezed, she adds.
While it is true that all of us might “wish” that things weren’t expensive, insisting on such wishes is not really a sign of maturity. A football fan might wish that the tickets in the nosebleed section behind the pillar weren’t $450 a piece, but (mysteriously) that is what the market will bear and he has to decide to pay it or not, whatever he wishes were not the case.
It is a worthy consideration, as Ms. Safern implies, to ponder if every expense is necessary. But at the end of the day faith does have costs in time, treasure, and tradeoffs. Does she value her faith so as to bear this cost…or not? From her remarks it seems doubtful that she values her faith much, since the “cost” is not worth it.
Regardless of the religion, Safern is far from alone in expressing such sentiments….A 2012 study by the Barna Group, a market research firm, found that 33% of Protestants and 41% of Catholics had reduced their contributions to churches or religious centers because of the economy….. Actually, Barna Group Vice President Clint Jenkin says it may be more than just the economy at play. He argues that a new generation of the faithful sees religion in an entirely different and decidedly isolationist way. Faith is becoming much more something you do privately rather than something at an institution, he says.
Exactly. Money and other resources are ultimately about what we value and what we do not value. The complaint about cost is not really all that much about money, it is about faith, it is about what we value. Many have devalued faith and decided that it isn’t “worth” much.
And, as the article suggests, one can try and reinvent the faith into a “private” matter. But at the end of the day it is clear that the driving force behind most theological syncretism and designer religion is not deep faith at all. It is about making faith less demanding, less costly, more convenient, more about “me” and what pleases me.
A few concluding thoughts. At one level, faith need not cost much at all. We could just meet in a local park on Sundays, expect that clergy be volunteer, and that very few implements such as books, bread and wine, candles, etc be used. But of course such an attitude seems foreign to people who value their faith more than that.
Traditionally it has been the instinct of the faithful to honor their belief with substantial buildings, and dignified implements. Further, since the faith is something weighty, the faithful do not simply depend on rookies or volunteer clergy for the most central matters of teaching the faith and leading the faithful in worship and governance. Rather, given the respect due to Holy Faith, clergy are expected by the faithful to be well trained. (I spent five years of post graduate and attained to two Master’s Degrees, then spent almost ten years in the internship of being a vicar rather than a pastor). This is par for the course and, yes, its costs money. But this is the instinct of the faithful.
So, faith, just like everything else we value does cost. And while there are legitimate discussions to be had about whether every cost is necessary, at the end of the day it is going to cost. If you want to find out what people value, find out what they spend their money and time on. In our increasingly secular and faithless world, many (including some believers) lament what faith “costs” even as we spend exorbitantly on many other things.
As I write this, it is a Sunday afternoon and quite literally billions of dollars and millions of hours have been spent today in an obsession known as “football,” a game having to do with the movement of a bag full of air on a field. Some fans (short for fanatic) spend as much as four to eight hours glued to the screen, or in loud uncomfortable stadiums. Hundreds of dollars are spent on tickets or parties. And yet many of these same people scoff at the “cost” of a Mass that lasts more than an hour, and would, if they went at all, consider themselves generous contributors if they put five or ten dollars in the basket.
Yes, Sunday is a day of great contrast.
What should faith cost? It is clear that the answer to this is for us to decide.
In the end however, the “lament” of the cost of faith reported in the article above is not about the money. It is about faith and what we really value. Everything “costs” it’s just what you decide to spend your money on that reveals what you most value. Do you value the faith? You decide, and you show it by what you are willing to pay. Where a person’s money and time is, there is their heart.
Video: the immigrants to this country were poor. But they combined nickels and dimes to build beautiful churches. Why? I suspect because they valued their faith and thought the cost to be worth it.
God does not need our money, time or talents. His perfect will is accomplished without any contribution on man’s part.
However, a christian with a transformed heart sees that every part of his life belongs to God. Our money, our talents and our time here is all God’s.
So how do we look on something that is a cost when everything we receive is a gift from God?
This is a sarcasm thread, right? Look at the conspicuous wealth of the Roman CC and you cannot ask this question with a straight face.
If one things the Church has too much wealth, the Christian is still not off the hook as long as the following verses are relevant:
31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
37 Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
40 The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
41 Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
44 They also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?
45 He will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
I would say this “transformed heart” must exist outside of a a vacuum, and beyond the prayer closet. Love is visible and sacrificial.
If, for example, it isn’t seen, does it exist?
God was seen and heard to give a Command or two, which means we are called to exhibit meaningful and visible obedience. Our obedience is our witness. It always costs something, because loving God is not without value.
Something that cost nothing is valueless to both the giver and the receiver.
If God is giving me my daily bread won't he give me enough to share with the poor? The portion I receive is not my bread to begin with.
I know, and just look at how conspicuous God was with all those exacting and elaborate commands for His tabernacle and His specs just for His temple (not to mention the those precious metal “statues” and all). And the nerve, to actually designate a particular tribe for the priesthood, and then all those priceless gems and stones to be sewn onto those priestly robes. It is outrageous,!
God’s commands can be so so over the top and conspicuous.
I have been doing business with a big name camera store in NY. Owned and managed by Orthodox Jewish people. (I’m not.) They respect the Jewish calender and Sabbath times. It has never been a problem to do business with them and I respect them for sticking to their principals.
Chic-Fil-A reports no loss of business for Sunday Closings.
Not if you don’t give it. Does your daily bread mean anything to you? Chances are that it does mean something to you, and you are thankful. Thanksgiving to God for your bread is a gesture of our love for Him, and that love was a choice. It made you a Christian.
Well, you have this part of the post right. The rest displays a bad case of successionalism. The believers in Jesus are not a replacement for Israel, the nation. But, even if we were, read Paul's letter to the Hebrews (and Romans and Galatians) and you will notice that all the trappings of the Law are gone.
The position you take, however, displays the error of sacerdotalism, papalism, absolution, sacraments, confession and a whole host of Roman errors. None of this is part of the New Covenant of grace in Jesus, through faith infused by God in the elect chosen before the foundation of the world. You may wish to read the Book your organization pretends to have delivered to the world. They don't even follow it themselves.
Garghlgag. Limited is as limited does.
Now, off with you, to resume your intellectual preening exercise in the confines of your theological limited universe.
Let us each be known by our God for our fruits, and tremble. There is a place for we arrogant and self righteous, thought wise in our own eyes.
The provision for worship in the initial tent of meeting was not done with the law. They were willing heart offerings:
Exodus 35:20 Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses presence, 21 and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.
Further, God had provided them with what was needed to supply his request
Exodus 12: The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
Hebrews is actually addressing one main point: How can we keep the Torah if the Temple is destroyed? The answer is that the Scriptures always prophesied another priesthood which, though superior in many respects, is distinct from the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical priesthood serves the copy, while the priest like Melkizedek serves in the Heavenly Temple. While it is impossible at present to carry out the earthly sacrifices, those have been covered for us by a superior Sacrifice. Therefore, those elements of Torah which don't require an earthly Temple (such as the Sabbath) may still be carried out--and should be (Heb. 4:9-10).
This doesn't negate Galatians, of course. In Galatians, Paul is telling Gentiles that they don't have to become Jews in order to take part in the Covenant. In Hebrews, he (or one of his disciples) is dealing with a purely Jewish issue. Sadly, failure to understand the distinct issues has resulted in the Church presenting as false a gospel to the Jews as the Judaizers presented to the Gentiles: "You can be saved if you believe in Jesus Christ . . . and stop being Jewish (i.e., keeping Torah)!"
Having said all that, back to the core issue in the article: Yes, it is right that houses of worship be supported, and even be beautiful. Yes, it is true that the refusal to put one's money where one's mouth is in regards to faith is an endemic problem in our culture.
On the other hand, how many priests, ministers, and rabbis who currently draw a salary from their assemblies would be willing to put their money where their mouths are and build tents for a living? And how many assemblies misuse their parishoner's money and build up material goods for themselves to an excessive degree?
There are two sides to this problem, and both need to be dealt with.
**As I write this, it is a Sunday afternoon and quite literally billions of dollars and millions of hours have been spent today in an obsession known as football, a game having to do with the movement of a bag full of air on a field.**
To me, sometimes, it seems that people value sports and life-style rather than God.
The Catholic Church isn’t really wealthy. There were figures on one thread about just meeting the expenses. That should be the case for all congregations.
**Chic-Fil-A reports no loss of business for Sunday Closings.**
Good point. Remember when all the stores were closed on Sunday, except for the drugstore and grocery store?
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Of course, the homemade (and unlimited) theology of Rome allows for every made-up concept which a group fancies. They end up with indulgences, genuflecting, rosaries, candles, icons, and a host of other extra-biblical contraptions. Again, none of it advisable, but all of enjoyed by those who love "religion". We invite you to consider Jesus, alone, by grace through faith...if you are among the elect.